July 12th. Pre Birthday Tasting


                    Last Thursday six of us got together for an impromptu tasting and dinner at Marra's in
                    Ridgewood New Jersey. Having just attended another tasting two nights before, I felt
                    that it was good time to do another tasting two days later. So, I proceed to ask Steve
                    Manzi if he wanted to do another tasting featuring the '98 Burge Reserve that I would
                    generously ante up. Naturally, for a taste of the '98 Burge Reserve, he said yes. Next, I
                    invite Rich Byrne and then dupe him into bringing a '97 Bryant Family. Actually it wasn't
                    that difficult and besides that, neither of us has sampled this vintage of Bryant Family.
                    Finally, I knew with the Bryant and the Burge Reserve on the table that Steve Levy
                    would be an easy mark. He was! Showboat Steve showed up with a '91 Grange in hand
                    which I might add fit in nicely.

                    We were not only celebrating my upcoming birthday on Sunday but also the completion
                    of Steve Levy's "mega" wine cellar. Although Steve's cellar is up and running, not a
                    single bottle of wine has made it from his basement to the newly completed cellar. Ya
                    see showboat Steve has a renowned reputation for buying new homes and putting in
                    impressive wine cellars, only to turn around and upgrade to a much bigger home in short
                    order. So, it certainly didn't surprise me at all when Steve mentioned that he might be
                    moving to a larger abode in the very near future. Actually, I've seen this act before…but
                    never before moving his wines into his cellar first.

                    Lets see we started with a couple of cabernets and then moved to four Shiraz wines.
                    Except for a bottle of '98 Dutschke "Oscar Semmler" Shiraz that had been decanted
                    hours before, none of the other wines were opened in advance of our arrival. Further,
                    some of the wines were served at room temperature, which was a tad to warm for my
                    palate. To my notes.

                    '97 Karl Lawrence- Dark color or ink and oil. Huge bouquet of bittersweet chocolate,
                    blackberry and cedar. Saturated ink like color. The deeply scented bouquet suggests
                    ripe red and black fruits and smoky oak like aromas. Add to that a medium concentration
                    and ripe tannins with a long lingering finish. While it doesn't carry the weight or finish as
                    well as some of the other "big boys", it is certainly has a lot going for it. My second
                    tasting note, Score it "94".

                    '97 Bryant Family- Unquestionably the top dog in this tasting! Although the '91 Grange
                    and '98 Burge Reserve were also very much in the hunt. The wine showed a saturated
                    purple and deep ink like color. On the palate, the highly extracted well endowed wine
                    shows remarkable concentration and impeccable balance. The wine is literally oozing
                    with hedonistic richness. Highly concentrated "seamless" flavors and superb balance
                    make this my favorite of the evening. The binger of this wine kept saying that it tasted
                    like velvet and the purity of fruit and flavor profile were unreal. Well, I have to agree
                    with Rich Byrne on this one. My first tasting note and reminiscent of the great '95
                    Bryant Family, score it "100".

                    '98 Henry's Drive Shiraz- showing a very dark ruby, almost purple color. Out of the
                    gate, the '98 Henry's Drive Shiraz was a hit from the opening whiff to the closing sip.
                    The bouquet was singing with fragrances of deep black currants and ripe Blackberry
                    scented fruit and just a hint of anise. Palate mirrored the nose and is just bursting with
                    succulent core fruit flavors suggesting licorice, tar, heavy toast and vanilla bean. Add
                    to that a fat sweetness to it's taste that was, for the lack of a better term, a "sensory
                    overload"! The wine also finishes very well and should drink effortlessly over the next
                    five to seven years or so. My ninth tasting note, score it "93+"

                    '98 Dutschke "Oscar Semmler"- deep tar and ink like color. Opens with a restrained
                    nose suggesting road tar, crushed blackberry like fruit, Licorice, moderate toast and
                    spice. In the mouth, the wine is moderately concentrated and f with rich, ripe Syrah
                    fruit and soft, round tannins. Finishes with a 25 second residual sensation. I've had
                    better bottles. My fifth tasting note and possibly a slightly "off" bottle, score it "92+"

                    '98 Draycott Burge Reserve- deep color of ink and oil. Restrained nose suggesting
                    crushed black fruits, spice, oak and full toast. Palate offers up super concentrated and
                    highly extracted, "pure" core fruit flavors. Would have benefited from additional airtime.
                    Very "Primary" right now, but has ALL the components to be spectacular! Finishes with a
                    45 to 50 second residual sensation. My eleventh tasting note and a real pleasure to
                    drink, score it "97+"

                    '91 Grange- Out of all the vintages of Grange I've consumed over the years, the '91
                    and '82 remain my all time favorites. With close seconds going to the '86 and 1990
                    vintages. Anyway back to my notes. The '91 grange showed a deep, dark ruby color
                    leading to a full throttle bouquet suggesting chocolate, raspberry, licorice and a good
                    dollop of toasty new oak. Hell, I would buy this wine on nose alone! That is if I couldn't
                    get "Levy" to buy it for me. In the mouth, the wine is enormous but the tannins are ever
                    so slowly melting away! The palate mirrors the nose offering up intense raspberry,
                    sweet oak and dark fruit like flavors. The balance here is the key to a remarkable bottle
                    of wine. It also finishes very well and should drink and improve over the next ten to
                    fifteen years. My fifteenth tasting note, score it 97/98! Awesome juice!

                    '97 Godineau Bonnezeaux "Grains par Grains" Petits Quarts- Having had my fill
                    of red wines; I made sure I saved room for this stunning dessert wine. An outstanding Loire
                    wine that is actually reminiscent of a great vintage of D'Yquem. It's balance, finish and
                    residual sensation were something to behold. I still can taste it…at least in recall. It was for me
                    an outstanding treat. My fifth tasting note, score it "99".

                    There you have it!